It’s time for designers to put words into action

Last week was fantastic for fine words. Courtesy of British Design & Art Direction, we heard Richard Seymour, then David Stuart, talk eloquently about a better world by design and for design.

Last week was fantastic for fine words. Courtesy of British Design & Art Direction, we heard Richard Seymour, then David Stuart, talk eloquently about a better world by design and for design.

Delivering his D&AD President’s Lecture to some 700 people, Seymour showed that he is not only one of the design industry’s best orators, but a great thinker too. And,often, his thoughts turn to humanity and the impact of design on people’s lives. There was irreverence in his tone as he slated technological breakthroughs such as the Qwerty typewriter keyboard, which caused people to rethink how they do things for no good reason.

By contrast, he couldn’t praise enough developments such as Johnson Banks’ typeface that increased legibility and still took up less space in the Yellow Pages phone book, or the new language that has evolved through text-messaging. These are real breakthroughs that change people’s lives for the better, he maintains.

Seymour is keen to see “design” become more active, preferring “designing” as a descriptor for his profession. He also wants more designers to ask “Why?”, to make things better. Even the wheel is up for reinvention.

Stuart, meanwhile, in his D&AD presidential address, advocated collaboration among designers, and between designers and others. He also spoke of confidence, and particularly designers’ lack of it. To borrow Seymour’s word, “Why?” is this so? And how can we restore it? Any ideas?

Fred Scott – an unsung hero

Sad news this week as we report the death of furniture design maestro Fred Scott. Few people will know of Scott, a humble soul, though many of us sit on the Supporto chair he designed for Hille years ago.

But Scott didn’t want to be remembered just as the designer of the Supporto. There was much more to him than that. Ironically, he had recently found a new lease of life through work with Keen, whose founder Charles Keen penned his obituary (see news, page 3).

Scott suffered throughout his life, as many designers do, from false promises and bum deals by would-be patrons. A fitting memorial to him would be for designers to heed David Stuart’s call to build up their collective confidence and hold out for a deal that better meets their needs. The Design Business Association has taken up the fight on contracts (see “DW200102090004”); James Dyson is battling his way through the courts, setting legal precedents that benefit innovative designers. Let’s all get involved, for Fred’s sake.

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